A few years ago they fixed what was probably Melbourne’s most confusing bus route, but plenty of others are still running confusing, spaghetti-like routes around the suburbs. Often your trip from A to B travels via the rest of the alphabet.
A PTUA report out today tries to measure how much buses meander, by comparing the route distance to the quickest possible road route from start to end.
On average, bus routes were 70% longer than the direct alternative …
Some 20% of Melbourne bus routes were so indirect that the route length was more than double the shortest distance by road.
This results in routes which are not only confusing, they are slow to use, and generally infrequent (because more buses are needed to run the route if it is longer than it needs to be). The result is many bus routes are unattractive to those with an option of driving — resulting in under-used buses and increased traffic on the roads.
There is some hope: Smartbus. These have shown that more direct, frequent services are very popular, including in outer-suburban areas often thought to be the exclusive domain of the car.
In the Age story today on the report (and covering some other bus issues), PTV (which has expressed interest in the past about improving bus route efficiency) defends the current position:
…Public Transport Victoria said bus routes had to provide a balancing act between delivering speedy cross-town travel and serving locals on shorter trips.
Ah yes, but the current services aren’t very efficient at serving locals on shorter trips either.
For example, to get from Moorabbin (the area around the shops/station) to Southland, a distance of 3km (or about 5 minutes in a car), your choices are:
- Bus 823, a bus direct down the highway taking 8 minutes, but it only runs once an hour on weekdays, and not at all on weekends
- Bus 811/812, which goes via the industrial areas of Moorabbin, taking between 15 and 22 minutes (at least it runs every day, though only every 30 minutes on weekdays, and only hourly on weekends)
- Bus 825, via Sandringham, Black Rock and Mentone, and taking 40 minutes (also runs every day; every 20 minutes on weekdays, but only hourly on weekends)
- Or catch the train to Cheltenham (since as yet there is no Southland station), then walk for 15 minutes, or choose from one of half-a-dozen buses, departing from numerous different stops, and none of them timed to meet the train
No wonder most people drive.